CRIMES OF HATE
September 9, 1997
Hate crimes against Asian Americans are on the rise, according to a new report. How strong is Anti-Asian bias in America? After a background report, Elizabeth Farnsworth talks to four Asian Americans about the problem and the possible solutions.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: There's a new report out today documenting an increase in hate crimes against Asian-Americans. The authors of that report presented their findings today to Attorney General Janet Reno. And one of those authors, Karen Narasaki, is with us. She's executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium. She's joined by Susan Au Allen, an attorney and president of the United States Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce; John Liu, a director of the Pacific Research Institute, a public policy research organization in San Francisco; and Bill Hing, executive director of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center here in San Francisco and a visiting law professor at the University of California at Davis. Thank you all for being with us.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
September 9, 1996:
A background report on hate crimes against Asian-Americans.
August 7, 1996:
An Online NewsHour report: how have Asian Americans been affected by the campaign finance scandal?
July 3, 1997:
Read an Online forum with Clinton's race advisory panel .
June 16, 1997:
A report on the President's One America race initiative.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of the race relations.
Homepage for the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium.
Homepage for the U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce.
Karen Narasaki, violent crime in general is down in the United States. Why are these hate crimes up?
KAREN NARASAKI, National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium: Well, I think that is a very important question. One of the things that we have found is a lot of the incidents clearly involve anti-immigrant sentiment, and, as you know, in 1996, it was a presidential election year. A lot of the candidates were using very divisive rhetoric, trying to exploit wedge politics, and the result was a predictable, painful result of increase in violence.
The exact number of hate crimes is hard to come by.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Tell us--give us the numbers here. Are we talking about many, many cases, or how many cases, 17 percent over what?
KAREN NARASAKI: Well, we have been tracking hate crimes for four years. And what we found was from 1995 to 1996, we now are at the level of 534 incidents that are either proven or suspected as hate crimes. And that's a long with knowing that, in fact, these crimes are often under-reported. If you talk to the FBI or most other law enforcement, they will tell you that it's very difficult to get people to come forward on these kinds of crimes.
100 percent increase of violence on college campuses.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And finally, on the report, one other question. What was new in it? It seemed that the violence in universities was brand new: 100 percent increase.
KAREN NARASAKI: Yes. We're particularly concerned with reports. It's not just universities. It's also in elementary and secondary schools. And the dramatic increase and steady increase has, in fact, caused us to launch a project. We're going to be surveying campuses to see, in fact, whether this problem is as extensive as we believe it is, and try to figure out what things can be done to address it.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Why do you think it's up in universities?
KAREN NARASAKI: Well, students hear the same things that their parents hear. And if they're constantly hearing that Asian-American--you know--immigrants are taking your job, that immigrants are responsible for every ill known to mankind, they're going to act out against people who look like immigrants. And that's one of the challenges that Asian-Americans have traditionally had in terms of facing down discrimination. It's been very hard to get the general American public to accept us fully as Americans.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Susan Au Allen, what's your view on why the crimes are on the rise, hate crimes?
Questions about the methodology of the report.
SUSAN AU ALLEN, U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce: I find--I feel that Karen's hand is in my pocket. I think the next suggestion Karen wants is some more funding. Well, this report was available in mid-August. It was available to the press last week. I called for a copy of it so I could read it over the weekend. I didn't get it until this morning. So I had a very fast reading of it. Let me tell you the problem. It claims a 17 percent increase in crime against Asian-Americans. What the report did not tell you--the truth was that the 17 percent increase includes suspected incidents. Now, we have to eliminated those suspected incidents and be truthful to the American public. This is a disservice to the American public. I also want to see--
KAREN NARASAKI: Well, Susan, Susan, I'd factually like to correct you on that.
SUSAN AU ALLEN: --what is the--I also--Karen, let me just--
KAREN NARASAKI: The report does, in fact, indicate that 9 percent are suspected. In fact, that whole study--9 percent of 1995 was also suspected--so the 17 percent rise is actually accurate.
SUSAN AU ALLEN: And the 17 percent also is an increase in better--is a result of better reporting, so whether there is a substantial increase from last year we do not know. What we have to ask is the methodology--
KAREN NARASAKI: Since we collect the data--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Excuse me. Ms. Narasaki, let Ms. Allen finish, please. It's hard to hear if you're both talking at one. Thanks.
SUSAN AU ALLEN: We have to question the methodology and whether there is a scientific method engaged in this investigation. We want to find out whether this is efficacy investigation or real, truth reporting.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, sort of that, Ms. Allen, do you think there isn't a problem, you think there aren't hate crimes?
SUSAN AU ALLEN: Oh, yes, there will always be bigots in the country, and they come in all colors. Discrimination does not--discrimination on the basis of color--but what we have to be careful of is that we do not fan the fire. Give the American public the real statistics and don't come up with inflamed rhetoric.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Ms. Narasaki, a brief reply to that.
The number of incidents may be even higher.
KAREN NARASAKI: Yes. I'd like to correct a lot of the mis-statements she made. And it's interesting that she's challenging it since she said she hasn't really had a chance to look at it. As I said, in fact, in both 1994 and 1995, we had 9 percent that were suspected and not proven. That means that we had reason to suspect it but for various reasons--there wasn't enough information or the police didn't follow up--that we couldn't tell. So the 17 percent rise is actually accurate. We have been tracking it for four years. And we know when it's a result of better reporting. For example, between 1993 and--1992 and 1993, we felt it was better reporting. And we report that. Actually, what happened is a lot of the organizations that we rely on for reports told us that because they were so swamped with changes in welfare laws and the new immigration bills that so severely impacted the Asian-American community they were putting less resources into tracking this kind of crime. That's why we're very comfortable with the increase. And we think--in fact, suspect it might have been higher.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Mr. Hing, I don't want to get stuck on what the methodology was.
BILL HING, Immigrant Legal Resource Center: I agree.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Just on the issue of anti-Asian-American bias, do you feel it?
BILL HING: Absolutely. I--every couple of months there's an incident not unlike the incident that Ms. Kim had, where somebody will say something derogatory to me just walking down the street. The other day I was in line at a drugstore and an immigrant woman was in front of me. And she didn't understand the tax. And as the person tried to explain it to her, the gentleman behind me started saying, "Come on, Lady, we're in the United States. You got to pay tax here." And then he added to that and said, you know, "I really wish there was another war because I'd really like to sign up to go fight in North Korea."
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Is there something different about the Asian-American experience, Mr. Hing--
BILL HING: Well--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: --as opposed to the black experience or the Hispanic experience?
Comparing the Asian-American experience with that of African-Americans and Latinos.
BILL HING: Every, every group has its own different sets of issues, but there are a lot of commonalities across those groups. Immigrants--Asians and Latinos do have a special issue with respect to their immigrant status. And time and time again, throughout the history of our nation, there have been periods of xenophobia that have given rise to an atmosphere that I see augments the type of anti-immigrant violence that we see here.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So you think that that's--this is part of that history?
BILL HING: I think it's a definite part of that cycle.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The President has called for a national dialogue on race. And he has formed an advisory council and an Asian-American from--a Korean-American from LA is on that commission--on that advisory group. What should be the role of Asian-Americans in this national dialogue on race?
JOHN LIU, Pacific Research Institute: Well, before touching on that subject, I want to also point out that there is, according to this report, an increase in hate crimes against Asian-Americans. I would also like to point out that for every incident of a hate crime directed against Asian-Americans there are not hundreds, if not thousands, of everyday decent American citizens who not only embrace this immigrant community but help them, lend a helping hand, reach out, and provide them with assistance if needed. And that is what I think we need to be balancing out this--this report.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So, in your view, that is a much more important factor in American life than these incidents?
"Not all Americans are bigoted."
JOHN LIU: There are over 200 million people living in the United States, and according to this report, there are roughly over--a little over 300 incidents of hate crimes. Now, let's be clear. Every hate crime, regardless of race, is despicable, needs to be prosecuted, and those people that commit those crimes should be brought to justice. But what I caution and what I'm wary of is that label--xenophobia--going on around the United States, I have not seen it. I live in San Francisco. I lived in New Orleans, San Diego, and Washington, D.C.. I do not see everyday American harboring bigotry towards Asian-Americans. Quite the contrary; I, myself, have been helped many times by people that have been born here and also that come from abroad.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: In your view then does the President's advisory commission, does it cause more problems than it solves in bringing up these few issues, or whatever issues it brings up?
JOHN LIU: Well, I think, first of all, it is political. At a time when--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I should say it's new. It hasn't brought up anything quite yet, but once it does.
The effect of politics on national racial sentiment.
JOHN LIU: Sure. Because the creation of this advisory board really, I think, negates the validity of the current U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which is headed up, coincidentally, by Yvonne Lee, an Asian-American. What does that send to the American public, that the President must form an advisory board to study race relations when an existing commission that has been sanctioned by the government to pursue those very same issues, what does that tell the American people? Are our tax dollars going to waste then?
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Briefly, Mr. Hing, because I want to get on to another subject.
BILL HING: I just want to applaud the President actually for raising this issue because there are serious race relations problems in the United States. We just cannot shovel that aside. We all share to variant extent the blame for the kind of culture that leads to hate crimes type of situation. Whenever we foster stereotypes or put somebody down based on something that we learned growing up, we contribute to that violence. But we can also contribute to the solution by reaching out, reaching out to those that we've been conditioned to subordinate. And that's what we've got to be getting across to everyone in the United States, so that these types of incidents that I think actually is understated can be eliminated.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Karen Narasaki, there's been a lot of criticism of the campaign finance hearings and the media treatment of the whole campaign finance crisis scandal because some Asian-Americans have felt stigmatized. How does--tie those two together--the commission and--I mean, the hearings and what you're talking about, the kinds of bias.
KAREN NARASAKI: All right. Well, one of the reasons we do this report is because discrimination against Asian-Americans has often been invisible and not talked about. The important thing for us is, as John Liu says, is to make the point that, in fact, there are systemic issues. We're not saying that every American is a bigot. In fact, we think most Americans are going to be horrified to hear that this is happening and will want to do something. You have to understand that it's systemic before you're willing to do something about it. That's why I think--for example--this image, this enduring image that Asian-Americans have about being foreign feeds into what happened with the campaign finance scandal. That's how you get the kinds of coverage you got with the National Review or statements by Senator Bennett when he was talking about Charlie Trie of well, that's just basically how the Chinese are, or other statements where they were mimicking Asian accents. A U.S. Senator--Brownback--was mimicking an Asian accent and saying about John Huang--"no get--no raise money, no get bonus." I mean, that's how enduring these images are. And that's--that creates an atmosphere where Asian-Americans become sort of permissive targets, as you will, for any kind of scapegoating.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Susan Au Allen, where do you come down on that?
SUSAN AU ALLEN: I think this is all a distraction. It seems to me that Karen and the group of people that she works with who have raised those objections to the reporting of Asian-Americans raising foreign money and these are clearly illegal activities--I've always said--I said back in October 1996 that it is--whether it is John Huang or John Smith--Charlie Trie, Charlie Jones--it is wrong. Let's get it out in open and find out what went wrong, what laws were violated because we have lots of laws on the book now governing campaign finance activities. All this rhetoric about Anti-Asian bashing is just to change the subject, distract the current administration's problem with using foreign money, which we'll be doing again the country a dis-service if we point a finger at a different direction. Let's look at what's went wrong with the current enforcement of laws--fix it--and don't blame it on Asian bashing.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Hing, we have a very short amount of time. Where do you come down on that?
BILL HING: Well, I just think it's a shame that really the focus of these hearings should be on campaign finance reform and it's become a focus on what China's doing and what these Asians were doing in terms of donations.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Mr. Liu, very briefly.
JOHN LIU: I echo Ms. Allen's sentiments. There is obviously a right way to raise money and a wrong way to raise money. Gov. Gary Lock, a Democrat of Washington State, the first Chinese-American to hold a governorship in the mainland, did it the right way, and he should be commended for doing so. The same thing with former Attorney General of Nevada, Cheryl Lau. She did the same thing. And I think it's really unfortunate that the DNC took advantage of the current loopholes in the laws to raise these kind of foreign illegal contributions.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, thank you all very much for being with us.
JOHN LIU: Thank you.
BILL HING: Thank you.